08/18/2002 11:00PM

Euros should be licking their chops


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - After Beat Hollow squeezed out a narrow decision in a six-horse blanket finish in Saturday's Arlington Million, trainer Bobby Frankel seemed to surprise a few people by saying Beat Hollow's next major goal would be the Breeders' Cup Mile, not the Breeders' Cup Turf.

After watching how Beat Hollow ran, there should have been no surprise at all. Beat Hollow was very game. But for him to have to work as hard as he did after the trip he got, in a race in which he looked so superior that he was sent off at 3-5, there is only one conclusion to reach: The 1 1/4 miles of the Arlington Million is pushing Beat Hollow's envelope, and the 1 1/2 miles of the Breeders' Cup Turf is an unrealistic spot.

Yes, Beat Hollow was floated wide in the early stages of the Million. But, Forbidden Apple was absolutely walking on the early lead, and Beat Hollow was in close attendance to him. That was actually a perfect spot, since the first quarter-mile went in 25.07 seconds, and the second went in 25.11.

And considering how the Million field dawdled early, they didn't come home very fast. The final quarter-mile was run in 24.17 seconds, which isn't that strong for this class of animal, especially considering the slow early fractions. In fact, the final quarter wasn't as quick as the fourth quarter, which went in 23.88. That explains why Frankel has no choice but to shorten up Beat Hollow, and it also explains why only two noses, two heads, and a neck separated the first six Million finishers at the wire.

When you acknowledge that Beat Hollow is a better fit for the Mile than the Turf, the next logical thing to do is speculate how he will do in the Mile. Frankel insisted after the Million that Beat Hollow would be very strong going a mile, but it's fair to wonder if he has the lightning-quick acceleration that distinguishes most standout milers.

More importantly, after the Million you have to wonder if Beat Hollow is good enough. Falcon Flight, who has never been mistaken for one of the leaders of the turf division, and who at best can be described as a hard hitter, would have won the Million had he gotten through on the inside in the stretch instead of being badly blocked. Paolini, a decent European but not a standout finished right behind Falcon Flight in sixth, and also had traffic trouble in the stretch. It must be noted, however, that Paolini's traffic trouble was in large part because of his failure to kick it in when he had the chance. Going fastest of all at the finish was Ulundi, whose most recent Group victory came a year ago in April in the Scottish Champion Handicap, a hurdle race!

No, I think the one thing the Million did make clear is the weakness of the American turf division, and that when the really good Europeans get here come Breeders' Cup time, they will likely have a field day.

New female division leader

Saturday's Beverly D. on the Million undercard made clear that Golden Apples has unseated Astra as the leader in America's filly and mare turf division.

Golden Apples, who now holds a 2-1 advantage in her three meetings with Astra this year (and who took her game on the road, which Astra has yet to do) was methodical. She maintained her position and then gained when pacesetter England's Legend threw fairly quick second-, third-, and fourth-quarter mile fractions at her, while Astra had trouble keeping up. Astra did gain some in the final furlong, but never looked like a serious threat to win.

Even though the Beverly D. was her first win from three attempts at the trip, the 1 1/4-mile distance also seemed a bit of a stretch for Golden Apples. She drifted out late, as though fatigue caused her to lose focus. This year's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, like the Beverly D., is also at 1 1/4 miles at Arlington, and this is something to file away for consideration when that race rolls around.

Farda Amiga is for real

One other thing made clear on Saturday, by virtue of her win in Saratoga's Alabama Stakes, Farda Amiga proved she is no fluke. While it is true this wasn't the toughest Alabama ever, by winning it with a relentless rally, Farda Amiga proved her 20-1 upset of the Kentucky Oaks was not an aberration.

I admit I'm not familiar with the work of Paulo Lobo, Farda Amiga's trainer, and his record this year going into the Alabama of only two wins (both by Farda Amiga) from 27 starters isn't Hall of Fame material. But, he got Farda Amiga to win a race like the Kentucky Oaks off a two-month layoff, and a championship-type race like the Alabama off a 3 1/2-month layoff. That is pretty good stuff.